A remark by Xi Jinping is suggestive. (South China Morning Post) Xi Jinping warns Communist Party would be ‘overthrown’ if Taiwan’s independence push left unchecked. Quoting, “The Communist Party would be overthrown by the people if the pro-independence issue was not dealt with.” But the reason is twisted 180 degrees: An independent, democratic Taiwan represents an alternative to the Communist Party.
From Xi’s remark, which applies directly to Hong Kong, a criteria for intervention by China can be derived. As a geographically contiguous source of political contagion, it is far more dangerous than Taiwan, a more distant source of communicable disease of thought. But the adjacent troop deployments in Shenzhen do not mean intervention has been decided; it is a precautionary mobilization.
The economic price of intervention would be very high, utterly destroying the economic premium of Hong Kong. No longer a center of commerce, it would become an economic dependency of Shenzhen. That this is appreciated by the mainland leadership is indicated by the soft approach of their proxy, Carrie Lam:
- All recent arrests were bailed.
- Confidence-building meeting held with the leaders of the business community.
The harsher clashes, between organized crime elements and protesters, were probably paid for by mainland elements.
Blaming the unrest on Western instigation, the CIA, etc., is expected, an indication of the problem Hong Kong presents to the mainland as a relay point to the mainland for Western ideas, which the mainland authorities confuse with active subversion.
The criteria is indicated: Evolution of the protests towards a “second government.” The participation of normally conservative civil servants is significant. This evolution would be indicated by:
- Defection of an element expected to be loyal.
- Organizing efforts by civil servants, bringing political form to an amorphous movement.
- Emergence of a political movement that attempts to form an alternative government, or simply a parallel power structure.
Absent overt indications such as the above, concessions by Carrie Lam, that instead of diminishing the protests, result in escalated demands, contain the implied trigger for intervention.
The cost is drastic, requiring drastic fear.